There is something about Nigerian street food that causes enviable food comas, it just might be how the ruggedness behind them takes us back to our roots, or maybe it’s the fact that the nighttime might be the extra spice the food needs to come alive. Whatever the case, it is safe to say that Nigerian street food is simply ethereal. Before you start salivating, we are giving you the inside scoop on the best street food spots in Africa’s giant. So if you do not want to be in a formal sit-down or dining setting or you just want to grab a quick meal right before you hit the road, here are some of the best street food options to choose from, as well as the top places to get them.
Suya might just be the Beyoncé of Nigerian street food; the versatility and the symphony of flavours that hit your tongue when you eat this street food is beyond comparison. Made from barbecued skewered marinated beef, chicken, ram or any other protein you can think of, it is infused with an array of local spices that add that exquisite and easily recognisable kick. It is a national treasure sold at almost every junction, bar, restaurant, and pub in the country. For some, it’s not a Friday night without a plate of juicy, spicy Suya served on old newspapers and garnished with cucumbers, onions, cabbage, and tomatoes. To these people, this right here is what dreams are made of! Suya originated from Northern Nigeria, so it is mostly sold by Northerners known as ‘Mai Suya’ (Suya Vendors). With such a widely-accepted delicacy, there are probably a million Suya joints in the country. However, if you’re in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, you should check out ‘Yahuza Suya Spot’. This spot is indigenous for the tastiest, juiciest, and spiciest Suya you can find on the streets of Abuja. They offer a wide variety of options; beef, ram, offals, chicken, and even goat meat suya. This Suya spot has three locations in Abuja, each one ranking highly by Abuja residents. There’s one at number 7 Bozoum in Wuse 2, another at Central Business District and a third at 452 Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki. Whichever location you decide to visit, you will be blown away.
Although debatable, boli/bole might be Nigeria’s most popular street food. Bole or ‘Boli’ is a simple plantain dish that’s indigenous to southwestern Nigeria. This savoury dish features roasted plantain, which could be ripe or unripe, served with grilled or roasted fish, pepper sauce, or even groundnuts. It can also be accompanied by roasted yam, corn, coconut, or avocados. Boli/Bole is an increasingly popular dish, and just like Suya, you can find it at every junction in nearly every state. One would think there is no trade secret to this street food as it purely involves roasting plantain. However, the taste of Boli/Bole differs from State to State. Bole might be a popular roadside food; however, multiple restaurants and bars serve this mouthwatering delicacy. One of which is ‘Elehakia’, Port Harcourt in Rivers State. This local pub goes all out for Bole. Here, your Bole is garnished to your taste with topping choices that range from savoury pepper sauce, grilled fish, lots of onions and natural herbs.
If you’ve ever wondered what African salad tastes like, you should initiate a lifetime subscription to Abacha. This street food has a heritage of royalty. Originating from the eastern part of Nigeria, this dish is cooked mainly with cassava. The cassava is cooked, shredded, and finished with green vegetables, palm oil, roasted fish, onions, and garden eggs arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. While one can find Abacha almost anywhere in Nigeria, you will be spoilt for choice in Nigeria’s coal city, Enugu, as there is an Abacha joint at every corner. However, one spot that’s known to serve finger-licking Abacha in Enugu state is at ‘New Haven Last Bus Stop’. On most days, this spot is filled to the brim with customers from all over the state.
Ewa Agoyin is overcooked brown beans served with deeply fried stew. It is often garnished with fried plantain, fish or ponmo (cow skin), depending on the restaurant and of course, personal preference. In most cases, this comfort food is eaten with fresh, soft, unsliced bread or ‘Agege bread,’ as Nigerians call it. Like most street food, Ewa Agoyin is best enjoyed in its rawest and most local form. Hence, the most delicious and authentic Ewa Agoyin you might ever eat is sold by the roadside in most southwestern states of the country. Western states should be your first choice when trying this street food. The competition is fierce as there are over 1,000 Ewa Agoyin spots in Lagos alone. However, if you find yourself here, check out ‘Corporate Ewa Agoyin’ in Surulere. Lagosians hold them in high esteem, so you’ll get your money’s worth.
Indigenous to western and north-central Nigeria, Kuli Kuli is a crispy snack made from processed peanuts and peanut oil (the reason for its toughness). It is mostly enjoyed alone or with Garri, Fura de nunu or Kamu. Although, for a more bougie option, some people add Kuli Kuli to Greek Yogurt or even Parfait. This crunchy snack comes in different shapes and sizes. It can be long and thin like a pencil or flat and wide like mini discs. Kulikuli is often pedalled in wheelbarrows or trays and sold by locals at motor parks, and bus stops. It is also packaged in sachets and sold in several supermarkets, one of which is ‘Neemart Food in Kubwa’, Abuja. They have a wide range of packaged Kuli Kuli available for your enjoyment.
Popularly known as Dundun, this satisfying meal is commonly served with fried plantain and pepper sauce. This savoury dish is made by dicing yam into bite-size pieces and deep-frying them in hot oil. A great spot for fried yam is ‘Dundun Nation’, Elegushi Royal Beach, Ikate, Lekki. They make dundun in a way befitting of the gods. Their dundun is crinkly cut, which makes it so pleasing to the eye, so much so that you can’t wait to delve into it. As Gen Z would say, they understood the assignment!
Just as the name implies, roasted corn is basically roasted corn on a cob. A favourite during the rainy season, this snack is typically eaten alone or served with roasted African pear (Ube) and coconut or boiled cassava flakes. Just like other street foods that are not indigenous to a particular tribe, roasted corn can be found anywhere in Nigeria. It is most commonly sold at junctions and roadside stalls, but food connoisseurs swear by the roasted corn in Akwa Ibom, especially at ‘Use Market’ in Uyo. There are a large number of roasted corn stalls, and they boast hundreds of customers daily.
A well-known appetiser at most parties, this mouth-watering comfort food is prepared mainly with flour, sugar, nutmeg, yeast, and eggs all mixed together and left to proof for about an hour or more. After this, the dough gets shaped into balls and deep-fried until golden brown. Puff-puff can be served alone but oftentimes accompanied by Samosa, Fried Chicken, and Spring Rolls (The conglomerate of these four snacks is what is known to all colloquially as ‘Small Chops’) Puff Puff is eaten and enjoyed by every Nigerian tribe so it is not exactly native to a particular region or people. Hence it can easily be found at almost every bus stop. However, a great location to get this delectable street food is at ‘Obalende bus stop’, Lagos. If you ask anyone on the streets of Lagos for the best puff-puff in the state, there is a high probability that you will be directed to Obalende bus stop. A testament to this is the crowd found there every morning - commuters, school students, passersby, and road transport operators all want to have a bite -or three.